Trip reports

Trip to Titchwell, October 2011

Adult bittern wading in reedbed at Lee Valley Country Park

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The literal translation of Charabanc is `an old cart with benches used mainly for sightseeing`. The mode of transport for our trip to the birding hot spot of Titchwell on the North Norfolk coast wasn't quite that salubrious, but the old 25 seat banger gave us plenty to think and talk about as we slogged our way across eastern England for four hours. The only respite came with 20 minutes at the superbly named Green Wellie café for a cup of `grog` erroneously labelled as coffee!

The bright sunshine that accompanied us almost all day warmed our battered backsides and made for very pleasant conditions in which to be out and about, though would it mean that the migrant birds stayed high and out of sight? The group quickly scattered to the far points of this most popular reserve, which had recently just completed a major refurbishment. The most obvious development was improved disabled access, and several motorised users busied around, scopes at the ready.

The first notable sighting came just after our arrival with a yellow-browed warbler, perfect in its eye and wing stripes, ping-ponging its way through the dense willows of the meadow walk. Chiff chaffs and goldcrests complicated matters by trying to keep up with the eastern rarity, and those frustrated by drawing a blank here were at least accompanied by a very vocal cettis warbler, yelling continually from the ditch behind.

The warm bright weather brought out those Titchwell residents, the bitterns, and many of the group were rewarded by some great fly over views as these normally secretive birds clumsily winged back and forth over the reedbeds, avoiding their more languid neighbours the marsh harriers. The few late swallows and house martins that were still about kept well out of the way. On the other hand those other famous Titchwell reed bed residents, the bearded tits, were much shyer on the day.

Heading out along the path towards the sea revealed more of the work that had been completed on the reserve. The sea defences have been beefed up to help protect the reserve from high tides, and a brackish/salt marsh will be developed to help soak up encroachments. There was also a brand new hide, which as chance would have it, was officially opened on the day we were there. The great and good of the RSPB hierarchy were there to mark the occasion, and the really keen birders among us even spotted TV`s Superstar Science Geek Chris Packham, who seemed to pop up all over the reserve - he was certainly easier to find than the small group of twite reported.

The wader list at Titchwell is always quite impressive, and dunlin, curlew sandpiper, spotted redshank, grey plover, sanderling, bar tailed and black tailed godwits among others didn't disappoint. However, spectacular wader event of the day had to be the waves of golden plover that dropped from the skies to sit out high tide. Each one spangled in the autumn sunshine, and the collective effect was amazing.

However, the trip time was soon up, and the slow meander back up the path to the coach park was filled with painful thoughts of re-acquaintance with a Cannock version of the four hour all-over body massage. I lingered around the feeding station for as long as possible, vainly hoping for a brambling, before climbing on board fortified by thoughts of the days events, which totalled over 80 species